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AP McCoy rides off with the big trophy

By Steven Beacom

The man from Moneyglass is used to crossing the line first, but Anthony Peter McCoy looked a little shocked when he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year last night.

The magnificent McCoy beat nine other contenders, including fellow Northern Ireland hero Graeme McDowell, to the prestigious award.

Jump jockey McCoy was a hugely popular winner at Birmingham's LG Arena, becoming the third Ulster sports star to claim the prize, following Dame Mary Peters in 1972 and Barry McGuigan in 1985.

It's been a glorious year for the man known as AP and this capped it off in perfect fashion.

He's a huge Arsenal fan, so for the Gunners captain and Spanish World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas to present him with the famous trophy made it even more special.

Such has been his greatness down the years, many said in the run-up to last night that McCoy should have been recognised with the prize before now.

But just like the Grand National, I suspect this was worth the wait.

In April McCoy, a regular on the sports pages, became front page news when he won the National on Don't Push It at the 15th attempt.

It was an emotional victory, which transcended horse racing and won thousands of punters a few quid in the process.

It also proved to be the catalyst for claiming the BBC prize for the 36-year-old, who has ridden over 3000 winners and is currently chasing a 16th successive jump jockeys title.

This is a guy who has broken just about every bone in his body at one time or another in his quest for success and for lunch, to keep his racing weight down, eats one or two jelly babies!

He truly is one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and his mum, dad, family, friends and everyone in the horse racing fraternity can feel rightly proud of him.

McCoy described his victory as “unbelievable”.

Many people here will feel the same way about Portrush golfer McDowell not gaining enough votes to make the top three, with darts world champion Phil Taylor in second and heptathlete Jessica Ennis third.

The marvellous McDowell has had an astonishing year, winning the US Open and playing the key role in Europe's Ryder Cup success, but last night belonged to another Ulsterman.

It was also a great evening for David Beckham who was handed the Lifetime Achievement award following in the footsteps of iconic figures such as our own George Best, Pele, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Bobby Charlton, Seve Ballesteros, Bjorn Borg, Sir Ian Botham and Martina Navratilova.

An emotional Becks was given a thunderous reception from the crowd and delivered a heartfelt speech (still won't get England the 2018 World Cup, though), dedicating the award to the armed forces.

Manchester United boss Fergie broke his self imposed ban on doing BBC interviews to lavish Beckham with praise. The Beeb will do anything to get Sir Alex on. Next year his pal Sam Allardyce will get the Lifetime Achievement award and in 2012 it will go to his son Darren!

Becks was genuinely taken aback on stage, as was our Tony.

McCoy has won many prizes down the years, but this one will mean more than most.

It's recognition for his incredible achievements in 2010 and throughout his remarkable career.

AP McCoy, we salute you.

Winners

  • SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR: Tony McCoy |(Racing)
  • TEAM OF THE YEAR: European Ryder Cup team (Golf)
  • COACH OF THE YEAR: Colin Montgomerie (Golf)
  • OVERSEAS PERSONALITY: Rafael Nadal (Tennis)
  • YOUNG PERSONALITY: Tom Daley (Diving)
  • HELEN ROLLASON AWARD: Sir Frank Williams (Formula One)
  • UNSUNG HERO: Lance Haggith (Basketball)
  • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: David Beckham (Football)

It’s a champion night for ‘AP’

Tony McCoy is no stranger to standing on the winner’s podium when it comes to the big occasion but the Moneyglass man was almost lost for words last night.

The 36-year-old became the first jockey to be named the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in the 57 years of the prestigious award.

The 15-time champion jockey beat darts champion Phil Taylor and heptathlete Jessica Ennis to take the award, which was decided by a public vote.

McCoy's Grand National triumph on Don't Push It earlier this year came on his 15th attempt at the race, and he has ridden 3,383 winners. He has also suffered more than 700 falls and numerous broken bones and injuries.

McCoy said: “This is an unbelievable feeling standing here in front of all these amazing people. To win this award is very surreal.

“I work in a wonderful sport in horse racing and I think most of them spent most of the night voting for me, so thanks.

“My daughter Eve, who is three, was shouting at me when she knew I was going to be on television this evening,” he added.

“When I started off as a jockey I wanted to be champion jockey in my mind, and I have been lucky enough to be champion jockey for 15 years.

“But the Grand National is the biggest horse race in the world and everyone knows I had won all the other races and to finally achieve that... it was just an unbelievable day,” explained McCoy, who paid tribute to trainer Jonjo O’Neill and racing owner JP McManus for giving him the winning ride in the Grand National.

Fellow jockeys joined in the praise for McCoy, with Frankie Dettori saying: “In my lifetime I don't think we will see anything like AP.”

Ruby Walsh added: “He's dominated racing like Tiger Woods dominated golf and Roger Federer dominated tennis.”

Success in the country's premier award will be seen by the racing industry as the ultimate recognition for McCoy.

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